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Image of Alabama Loyalists Greeting the Federal Gun-Boats.

Kara Walker , b. Nov 26, 1969

Alabama Loyalists Greeting the Federal Gun-Boats.

2005
39 in. x 53 in. (99.06 cm x 134.62 cm)

Medium and Support: Offset lithograph with screenprint
Credit Line: Purchased as the gift of Katherine D. and Stephen C. Sherrill (PA 1971, and P 2005, 2007, 2010)
Accession Number: 2006.70.4

Commentary

For her series of prints, Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War
(Annotated)
, Kara Walker enlarged select illustrations found in the two
volume book (1866 and 1868) of the same title and used them as backdrops
against which her silhouetted characters introduce new narratives. This
portfolio of fifteen lithographs marks the first time the artist has united
her signature black cutouts with historical documentation. “These prints,”
Walker said, “are the landscapes that I imagine exist in the back of my
somewhat more austere wall pieces.”
Thickly layered with symbolism and historical context, these prints are
neither simple nor straightforward. Walker’s stylized figures confront,
invert, and disrupt existing perceptions of race as they crawl, walk, leap,
even fly through her panoramas, turning stereotypes inside out and upside
down. Haunting our psyche as dark shadows of the past, the silhouettes
obstruct our view of Harper’s pictures as Walker invites us to interpret the
altered scenes, question what is now present or absent, and maybe confront
what has been missing from the onset. Reading the portfolio becomes an
exercise in substitution and erasure, both visually and historically. Kara
Walker fills in the blanks, reinserting the participation of African Americans
in the Civil War, and, like much of her other work, triggers in her viewer a
sense of uncertainty, discomfort, and emotional intensity.

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